The “Larry Nassar and Barracuda Aquilina” case

Larry Nassar, a former doctor to the US National Gymnastics Team, was accused of sexual abuse by more than 265 female athletes after also being found guilty of offences related to child pornography. While the abuse dates back decades, first charges were only laid in 2016 and since then more than two hundred women, mostly gymnasts, have come forward and with stories of abuse at his hands by a doctor in whom they had places their trust. We are talking about Olympic champions such as Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman and many other hurt, disappointed, once scared girls who are now braver than ever. 

But I would also like to talk about the judge of the trial Rosemarie Aquilina. Thanks to her, those abused girls were heard both by the defendant and by the whole court and in tern the whole world. Each of them could finally confront the man who believed he could count on fear and shame to keep their silence. While it is common to hear from victims in the sentencing phase of a trial, Judge Aquilina did something unique by giving the floor to anyone who claimed they were abused, even if they had not laid charges.

We are all too familiar with the barriers to justice faced by victims of crimes and especially those of a sexual nature. In another widely publicised sexual assault case, Brock Turner, a former athlete at Stanford University was found guilty of sexually abusing a young woman while she was unconscious.
The case garnered worldwide attention as he was only sentenced to six months in prison, which then became three. Even more remarkable were the comments by the judge who expressed concern about the impact that a longer sentence could have had on such a young boy. In doing so he gave little to no regard for the severe impact the offence had left on the victim.

Megan Ginter and Katherine Gordon while testifying during the trial. © Emma Winowiecki for Michigan Radio.
Megan Ginter and Katherine Gordon while testifying during the trial.
© Emma Winowiecki for Michigan Radio.

Often victims of sexual assaults are left re-traumatised by the harsh scrutiny they face during trials for sexual offences.
The victim in that trial, presented a letter in court describing the impact of the attack, she also mentioned some of the questions that had been asked to her during the trial. She had been asked about her weight, what she had eaten, who prepared the dinner, who had taken her to the party, who she had texted that night, about the times she went to the bathroom, about where she went to the bathroom, about who she was with when she went to the bathroom, if she had a boyfriend, if she had sex with her boyfriend, about what colour was the cardigan she was wearing, if she was wearing it before being raped.
Such questions are used to bring into question the reputation of the victim and tarnish their words. There has been debate over the last few years about finding a better way to question victims without bringing into question their entire reputation. By entering into a guilty plea, many of the victims in the Nassar trial were spared the normal courtroom trauma and were free to recount the events in their own words. Judge Aquilina went on from this to do something unique by giving the floor to victims whether or not they had laid charges.

Nassar has now been sentenced to 175 years. Judge Aquilina stated that it had been an honour, as well as a privilege, to deliver the sentence. She added that the abuse, which went ahead without him ever doing anything to control or solve his problems (the harassment was perpetrated for about twenty-five years), made Nassar a person who would not deserve to set foot outside prison ever again.
The letter presented by the defendant, where he attempted to portray himself as a victim of a media circus, was put aside with an inflexible gaze. These girls and women can now move forward with the awareness that justice has been done and, above all that their voices have been heard: without time limits, without restrictions, and without limitations.

Rosemarie Aquilina, the Judge who sentenced Larry Nassar to 175 years.
Rosemarie Aquilina, the Judge who sentenced Larry Nassar to 175 years.

It is also interesting to analyse the way in which the Larry Nassar case has been debated and reported by journalists. The case itself has of course been largely covered by almost the entire worldwide press.
In Italy, many newspapers and newscasts have discussed it, causing various discussions and exchanges of views on Twitter and Facebook. Newspapers such as Il Corriere della Sera, Il Post, Vanity Fair and Sky Sports have spoken about the trial.
Naturally, the case itself (and above all, the behaviour of the judge) had the largest press coverage in the USA, where the trial took place, although the newspaper articles about Judge Aquilina and her surely remarkable figure are nearly as numerous as the ones reporting the trial and Nassar’s crimes. Maltatoday, The Independent, BBC, Studybreaks and many other online resources have published articles and posts about the Judge, referring to her as “The American-Maltese Icon”, a “Quiet Hero”, the “Fearsome, Ferocious ‘Barracuda’ Judge Aquilina”, a “Fierce Advocate” etc.

Why has Judge Aquilina had such important media coverage? Didn’t she just apply the law? Maybe we should all reflect on the reason why this case is so outstanding. When a vast majority of judges globally are men it might raise the question as to whether that creates a barrier for justice for sexual crimes, which are overwhelmingly committed against women.
For every article about Judge Aquilina, there are hundreds of ones about rape victims not being paid attention to in court, being misunderstood by male judges. Judge Aquilina has been seen as a hero even if what she did is arguably just “doing the right thing” simply because women are not always lucky enough to experience justice labels this case as unique. Women are not always lucky enough to be granted the freedom to say what they want or need to say without facing any consequences.

In Turkey, for example, there was no strong media coverage of the trial, as there has been in other European countries. Only a few newspapers like Sputnik Turkey, Habertürk and BBC Turkey mentioned the trial and the consequent conviction. Despite a lack of coverage in domestic news, there was still a presence of these stories on social media and in smaller media outlets. It is hoped that coverage like this will empower victims to speak up when they face injustices and we will work towards a world where no more victims need to come forward and say “me too”.


Written by Melissa Vitiello; edited by Liz Manion


SuperShe: an island based community connecting women across the world

Yes, it’s very cool to leave your job and go for a World tour but what could be a better ending than doing that and ending up buying an island in the process? That is exactly what Kristina Roth did when she bought an island turned turning it into a women’s only retreat. Kristina’s story can be defined as the starting of a new era. Before establishing SuperShe in 2016, she was pondering her future and how to spend it and decided to go on a World tour. Everything started after this point. Upon seeing the island she bought it without hesitation. If you are familiar with the DC character Wonder Woman and her homeland Themyscira in the comic books, we can say that Kristina is Wonder Woman and she created her own Themyscira.
Read more

Women in football: Sicilya Demir Spor

Every Thursday Night in a football field in Koşuyolu, the lights are switched on for a very cool event: the weekly training session of Sicilya Demir Spor soccer team.
We shortly mentioned it in our previous article on the blog ( If you’ve missed go back right now!). As basically the only gender mix football team in Istanbul at the moment, Sicilya D. S, kicks very well all the “football-is-a-boys-thing” stereotypes. This amazing team, born from the hearts of an Italian, ehmm sorry, Sicilian photo journalist Delizia, and Ayşegül, a Turkish movie-maker, plays for the sake of fair play and non-violent play in a team made by boys and girls from different nationalities.
We were curious to know them a bit deeper. Here is Onar’s interview to Sicilya Demir Spor by our Ahmet, who by the way, put his feet on the ground and took action himself that night.

During the match, we couldn’t challenge either Delizia or Ayşegül to a competition. However, after the match, we were able to catch up with them and had a nice talk with them. Read more

Women in football

If there is something better than one woman’s fight for glory, it is eleven women fighting for glory as a team.  Although evidence of a football like game dates back to 5000BC, modern football as we know today came about much later in England circa 1850.  

The British Ladies Football Club North Team in 1895. Mrs Grahams XI are believed to be the first official women's football team in the UK and were set up by Helen Mathews who played under the pseudo name Mrs Graham in 1881. See SWNS story SWWOMEN; When women were battling to win the vote they knew exactly how to do it -- form the UK's first football team. Pioneering girls in Stirling stripped off their corsets and took to the pitch in an effort to change history. The team was set up alongside the Women's Rights movement in 1881 and experts believe the team directly helped women win the local government vote in Scotland by causing a stir on the football pitch in their revealing bloomers and blouses. The historic information was gathered by football historian Stuart Gibbs, 47, while completing an art exhibition called Moving the Goals Posts, which is touring the country.
The British Ladies Football Club North Team in 1895. Mrs Grahams XI are believed to be the first official women’s football team in the UK and were set up by Helen Mathews who played under the pseudo name Mrs Graham in 1881. (source:

Women’s participation in the sport took even longer due to a lack of gender equality and the perceived “masculinity” of the sport.  Following the huge societal changes during the post World War I and the increased space for women to participate in typically male dominated activities, women finally took to pitch.  Improvement in women’s football however, was not fast.  Problems with equal pay and equal space in the sporting world still exist and continue to hinder women’s football.  Despite the obstacles, women’s football continues to grow and there are now 176 national women football teams around the globe.

Women Playing Football – Origin

World War I brought misery for the entire world.  It took a lot of aspects of humanity from world but it also paved the way for some revolutionary movements.  It is interesting to see that women’s football had its first sparkle during World War I.  Thanks to heavy industry in England, sports and especially football, were very well known throughout the entire island.  The first match on record was played between a team from London against one from Scotland.  The final score of this match was 22-0, with England taking the victory.

After this period, the Football Association banned women playing football, in association’s owners’ pitches, claiming that: “matches are distasteful and unattractive.”  Despite this opposition, women kept playing football in rugby fields and the sport grew. Read more

Onar Photo Contest 2017

ONAR decided to launch “The Strength of Women in Turkey” photo contest in February 2017 as a way to promote women’s empowerment through the art of photography. We decided to focus on women living in Turkey, both Turkish and foreigners, to celebrate all the women living in the country and contributing to Turkish society.

The 12 photos we selected represent different faces of the strength of women in Turkey. As a coincidence, most of the authors of the selected photos are also women.

The winning photo, entitled “Jump”, with lightness shows a woman strong enough to jump in the light away from a shadow that seems to want to hold her back. Second place went to “Tea worker”, which shows the strength of a young woman and the grace she puts in the exhausting work she does. The third place went to “On Galata bridge”, which shows a woman off the beaten track as she does a typical male activity in Turkey.  A honorable mention went to “Not public property”, which touches upon the issue of virginity in Turkey. All the selected photos capture the pride of women in being exactly who they are. We believe that difference is a sign of strength. The women photographed, with their happy and serious faces, their aware presence in society, their focus in their work, give a sense of the strength of women not just in Turkey, but everywhere in the world.

 Written by Irene Campari

En/Gendering Foreign Policy at Kadir Has University

Second part panelI must say that when my alarm rang at 7:30 this morning I wanted to go back to sleep. I always think some how that it won’t matter if I attend the En/Gendering Foreign Policy conference that I saw on Facebook the night before. I’m just a regular person. It doesn’t matter if I go or not.  But I told myself, you should go. It can’t be that bad. And so I went.

The event was held at Kadir Has University  and was open to public which  is a rare feat. It discussed Gendering Foreign Policy and started at 9:30 in the morning.  Unfortunately  I arrived late  and missed the Welcoming remarks of and  comments of Nadezhda Neynsky , Ambassador for the Republic of Bulgaria. But never mind what I missed, let’s concentrate on the ones I had the honor to witness their passion for Gender equality. Read more

Despite all prejudices


Homosexuality is not against the law in Turkey, yet most homosexuals live in the closet. LGBT people face discrimination and harassment within the family, at work and in society at large. After years of important steps forward, the LGBT community is being affected by the systematic silencing of all those who are considered “others” because they don’t conform to traditional values.

Sedef Çakmak is so far the first and only openly gay politician elected to a position in Turkey. She has been an LGBT activist since 2004. After the Gezi protests, she decided it was time for LGBT people to be in politics with their open LGBT identities, so she became a candidate for the main opposition party, the CHP, in the 2014 local elections and was elected as a council member for the Beşiktaş Municipality in Istanbul. Sedef believes that she would have never been elected, had there not been the Gezi movement. The first thing that she did as a council member was to establish an equality unit within the municipality to build strategies for all minorities, not just the LGBT one, to make sure that they are represented in the municipality and in society. Thanks to the example set by the Beşiktaş  Municipality, there are now equality units in various municipalities in Istanbul and even in Bursa. Read more

Onar Istanbul Opening Night: A New Season for Women

onar-opening-night-programAnd here we are. Our 3rd season is just about to start.

How many people we met so far in our journey, so many incredible women, brave, talented, supportive, strong, in love with Istanbul and with life.
We helped each other, we discussed, we learned, we failed and we learned even more, we built and we dreamt together.

And let’s not forget about the incredible men who are supporting us, working with us to create awareness around, being the example for other men.
We are so lucky.

Onar was  born in 2013 and officially became a Turkish NGO in 2014.
We were so lucky.  Since the beginning, so many people supported and helped us a lot.
Collaboration is the key, collaboration has been always the key!

Onar means two different things in Turkish. On one hand it means: fix It! Yes, you got it, we are all responsible for the world where we live and we all have to take action.
On the other hand it means: that pomegranate, that in Turkish is nar. Pomegranate represents perfectly women, with their blood and seeds, passion, and life itself.
Women are the key for the cultural and economical resolution that currently affects the world.
A woman is unstoppable after she unlocks her potential, because she realizes she deserves better.

Empower women, empower the world! This is our motto! (watch the video we created for our  Raise Your Woice event  here)

Every year we try to raise the level of our performance. We are aiming to reach more women and men in our awareness and prevention trainings. We aim to involve more students in the cause investing on them. We aim to have more resources in order to help more women in need. We aim to inspire as much women as we can. We aim to actively involve  more men willing to collaborate with us. We aim to become a bigger team. We aim to realize all the dreams and plans we have. We want to have  an impact and make the difference.

Now we are just waiting for you! Come and join us for our opening night on Sunday, October 9th at 6.30 pm Impact Hub Istanbul ( Yeşilce Mah. Emirşah Sok. No: 21 Kağıthane, Sanayi Metro Station).
 Check out the program and register here.

Good luck to us,
for a new season,
for a new era for women,
for a better world.

Martina Pavone

Co-founder & President
Onar Istanbul
Yabancı Uyruklu Kadınları
Destekleme Derneği



The power of words

Istanbul Literature Festival
Source: Italian Cultural Center

On May 10th, the Italian Cultural Institute  hosted a lecture of the 8th Edition of the Istanbul Tanpinar Edebyat Festivali (The Eight Edition of the Istanbul Literature Festival). The participants were Asli Perker, the Turkish author  of “Souffle”, book that was a best seller in Turkey and has been translated in English and Michela Murgia*, an Italian writer invited also to celebrate the translation of her last book “Acabbadora” in Turkish. Moderated by Sibel Oral, the two writers had the chance to meet for the first time and discuss the female voice in literature. Read more

Raise your Potential, Raise your Woice

A self-empowerment guide for women to raise their potential

Let’sgenderroles_onar not start from far away.
Women represent half of the world’s population and 60% of university graduates.
Women represent the largest emerging market on the planet.
In more than 40 nations we lose 15% of potential earnings because of the gender wage gap.
So, what are we waiting for? Women are the key for a cultural and economic crisis resolution.
So what are YOU waiting for? Read more